The Mediterranean Diet

Written by Jennifer J. Shanahan, RD, CDN

The Mediterranean diet is associated with a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular events such as a heart attack or stroke.

The Mediterranean diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, plant-based proteins, whole grains and healthy fats. Although it is called a diet, unlike other popular diet trends in America, the Mediterranean diet is not about restricting foods and watching your calories. This diet is a lifestyle change that involves a wide variety of nourishing foods as well as incorporating exercise.

What are the benefits?

Numerous studies have found the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, depression, breast cancer, and improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Meals from the Mediterranean region have also been linked to stronger bones, a longer life, and weight loss.
How can you incorporate the Mediterranean diet into your lifestyle?

●    Switch from saturated fats like butter to olive oil. Use olive oil in cooking, and have salad dressings with olive oil as the base. 

●    Choose nuts or nut butter as a healthy snack. Consume an ounce, or a small handful, of nuts or an apple with a tablespoon of natural almond butter as a healthy replacement for processed snacks.  

●    Choose carbohydrates that are made with whole grains and high in fiber. Choose carbohydrates with 3 to 5 grams of fiber or more per serving. Look for the words “whole grain” as the first ingredient. Choose oatmeal for breakfast, a whole grain bread at lunch and experiment with bulgur, barley, quinoa, couscous, and whole grain pasta at dinner.

●    Eat more vegetables. Add an extra serving of vegetables to your meals, try to consume three to four servings a day. Add variety to your diet by trying a new vegetable every week.

●    Eat more servings of legumes each week. Options include lentils, chickpeas, beans, and peas. These can be great additions to a salad or used in a soup.

●    Try to add a vegetarian meal each week. Make a bean-based soup, stuffed peppers with black beans and brown rice, or vegetarian chili.  

●    Eat less red meat. Try to limit red meat, beef and pork, to only twice a month.

●    Eat more fish. Try to eat fish twice a week. Fish is an excellent lean protein source, and fatty fish like salmon and tuna are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

●    Use low-fat protein sources.  Choose grilled and baked chicken, use low-fat or nonfat yogurt. 

●    Eliminate sugary beverages. Replace soda, iced tea and sugary drinks with water or seltzer. Flavor your water naturally with lemon or fruit.  

●    Eat less high-fat, high-sugar desserts.  Choose fruit as an option when looking for a sweet. Aim for three servings of fresh fruit a day.  Save cakes and pastries for special occasions. 

●    Enjoy your meals with family and friends and exercise regularly.  The Mediterranean diet reinforces the importance of sitting down for meals as a family and exercising to meet weekly guidelines of 150 minutes per week.

To assist our patients during this difficult time, our dietitian remains available for virtual visits. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call the office at (631) 941-2000.

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